Looking Back At The 2003 Detroit Tigers (29-80)


Few fans was the usual site at Comerica Park in 2003. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

July 28 to August 3 (Weekly record 1-5, Season record 29-80)

The Detroit Tigers hit the road once again on this week in 2003. Though earlier they had better success (relatively speaking) on the road than at home, the bottom had fallen out. Following the All-Star break, the Tigers had played 14 road games, and lost 11 of them.

This particular road trip took them to Seattle and Minnesota. As we mentioned last week, two teams tormented the Tigers more than any in the 2003 season, and that was Boston and Seattle. Last week the Red Sox destroyed them, and this week it was the Mariners’ turn, sweeping the Tigers in three games by a collective score of 28-8. Things didn’t get better in Minnesota, where the Twins put 10 runs on the board in a Friday game. Detroit won its lone game of the road trip in Game 2, before dropping the rubber match.

Painful Game of the Week–July 31: Tigers at Mariners

After allowing 11 runs in the first game, and 13 in the second game, the Tigers’ pitching settled down a bit in Seattle. The M’s offense assault continued in the early innings of this Thursday matinee, hitting starter Wil Ledezma hard, scoring four runs over the first three innings. Chris Spurling and Danny Patterson nailed things down the rest of the way, shutting down Seattle.

Yet the Tigers’ offense, which had posted five and three runs in the previous two lopsided losses, could only muster three hits off three Mariners’ pitchers.

Another loss (the 78th), another shutout, and another sweep.

Final: Seattle 4, Detroit 0

Lousy Player of the Week: Fernando Rodney

Fernando Rodney has found success with the Tampa Bay Rays. Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Fernando Rodney had bounced around the minors and up and down with Detroit for much of 2002 and ’03 after signing as a non-drafted free agent in 1997. Through his first two seasons in the big leagues, he appeared in 47 games, posting a 2-6 record with three saves and an ERA above six.

Following the 2003 season, Rodney required Tommy John surgery, forcing him to miss all of 2004. He failed to make the roster out of spring in 2005, but found his way up and posted a respectable 2.86 ERA in 39 games with seven saves. The Tigers decided to bring back Todd Jones to close games in 2006 and Rodney found himself relegated to the set-up role during the Tigers’ pennant winning season. His ERA began to climb following the low mark of 2005, growing to 3.52 in 2006, 4.26 in 2007, and 4.91 in 2008.

Jones retired prior to the 2009 season and the closer job was handed to Rodney. Much how Jose Valverde was perfect in save opportunities in 2011, but made many of those saves very interesting, Rodney seemed to always be in trouble.  More times than not, however, he converted the save (posting 37) despite an ERA of 4.40.

In what would become Rodney’s swan song in Detroit, Jim Leyland inexplicably left his closer in for three innings of a non-save situation in the infamous Game 163 in Minnesota. He came in with a tie score in the bottom of the ninth, inherited a one-run lead when the Tigers scored in the top of the 10th, but surrendered a run in the bottom of that inning and allowed the winning run to score in the 12th.

Following that season, he turned down arbitration from Detroit and signed a two-year, $11 million contract with the Angels. Rodney was the closer in Anaheim, but struggled in his two years there, losing his job in 2011.

With his career seemingly over, Rodney rose from the proverbial ashes to have a Cy Young-caliber season with the Rays in 2012. He made his first All-Star game, converted 48 save opportunities, and posted a shocking 0.60 ERA in 76 games. He earned the honors of AL Comeback Player of the Year and Delivery Man of the Year. He would also finish fifth in the Cy Young race, which went to his teammate David Price.

It has been a struggle for Rodney to repeat his 2012 success, blowing five saves in his first 14 chances this season. Since then though, he and the Rays have caught fire. Fernando has successfully converted on his last 17 saves as of Friday.